Poorly hen with wizened comb.

rebrascora

Free Ranging
5 Years
Feb 14, 2014
7,127
8,648
556
Consett Co.Durham. UK
Hi

One of my RSL hens has been looking unwell since yesterday. I have seen her drinking and picking at grit but not eating. Her comb is wizened and burgundy coloured rather than a fleshy bright red. I saw her poo yesterday and most of it was very liquid and almost clear.

The colour and texture of her comb suggests to me that she is dehydrated and I'm thinking of making her a thin gruel with water and oats and some chopped nettles and honey (I keep my own bees) and perhaps some garlic too. They already get ACV in their water.
Can anyone suggest anything else I can do for her without throwing chemicals at her... or any comments about my proposed tonic.

Thanks in advance

Barbara
 

chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,905
655
296
Australia
Hi

One of my RSL hens has been looking unwell since yesterday. I have seen her drinking and picking at grit but not eating. Her comb is wizened and burgundy coloured rather than a fleshy bright red. I saw her poo yesterday and most of it was very liquid and almost clear.

The colour and texture of her comb suggests to me that she is dehydrated and I'm thinking of making her a thin gruel with water and oats and some chopped nettles and honey (I keep my own bees) and perhaps some garlic too. They already get ACV in their water.
Can anyone suggest anything else I can do for her without throwing chemicals at her... or any comments about my proposed tonic.

Thanks in advance

Barbara
Your headline brought me here and made me lol. 'Wizened'. Apt term but not often used.

You sound like you're already doing great by her, no suggestions there asides from not cooking the honey and garlic, if you are.

Outright dehydration would make the comb wizened but probably not change color like that unless really advanced, which wouldn't be too likely with her pooping water; but it's not impossible. After all she may be pooping out all the water. I don't know what would cause that. Usually, such a color change suggests circulation problems, but since the kidneys filter the blood, if they're having issues she could be showing buildup in her crest of old blood cells... Can you check inside her mouth? Is it yellowed or does she look jaundiced elsewhere?

May be liver issues, that's another possibility. If she is dehydrated but still drinking, yet not getting hydrated, then kidney issues are fairly likely. In which case a gentle detox and flush might help. Does she have access to fresh green grass? Are you feeding her pellets or any other concentrated dry premixed food as a staple? She may be poisoned or toxified from something.

Some breeds are fairly prone to heart problems. Nausea is one often not well known symptom of heart issues. Can you get a photo of her?

Best wishes.
 

rebrascora

Free Ranging
5 Years
Feb 14, 2014
7,127
8,648
556
Consett Co.Durham. UK
Hi

Many thanks for your reply.

Afraid I'm not computer tech enough to post a photo from my mobile phone and don't have a camera.

They are free range through the day in my stable yard and have access to the paddock for a bit of grass, although they are happiest scratching through my manure heap and dust bathing and sun bathing in the dirt corner of the paddock. They have ad lib layers pellets and they also get a bit of wheat as well on an evening. I've had a good look at the flock today and two others also have wizened looking comb too although they are still acting healthily at the moment but it's making me worry.

They were guzzling the pellets down last week but egg laying and pellet consumption has dropped off the last couple of days. They may be getting a lot more bugs now though with the weather being warmer. Got 9 and 8 eggs Fri and Sat and then only 4 Sun and the same yesterday from 10 laying hens. The only thing I have changed in the last week is that I ran out of the ACV I was using in the water and replaced it with a garlic and ACV product, although they have access to plain water as well. Water consumption has noticeably increased in the past few days, but the weather has been much warmer and drier than of late, so that may not be relevant.

Could their combs be suffering from sunburn? It has been so miserable and damp here all winter and spring so far, until the last couple of days and they have been out in the sunniest spot lazing about in it. I believe the UV rating has been high yesterday and today. The temperature is only about 16 Celsius though, so it's not hot.

Do you have a tip for opening their beaks so I can check inside for possible jaundice and syringe fluids in if necessary? Perhaps a link to a you tube video or something. I'm also going to check for mites and lice.

The other two hens with sad looking combs are a Blue Haze and an Araucana cross, so unlikely to be organ failure if all 3 are affected, but I may just be getting paranoid about them not looking right.

Heading back up to the yard now to examine them more closely.

Once again, many thanks for your response.

Barbara
 

rebrascora

Free Ranging
5 Years
Feb 14, 2014
7,127
8,648
556
Consett Co.Durham. UK
A further update......

The egg production has gone back up to 8 today and the food has been eaten this afternoon, so perhaps I was just being paranoid about the other hens.

The poorly one is still poorly but I managed to get some of my diluted oat and nettle soup into her. I inspected her for lice and found a few but not a large infestation and no clusters of eggs. She was not at all happy about being examined and struggled, even though I gently laid her on her back on a table and held her feet whilst I checked her over, as I had seen in a You Tube video.
I will get some DE to tackle the mites but they are not at a level to cause her to feel unwell in my opinion.
I checked the stable for red mites by brushing the debris from the joints at the edge of the perches and that came up negative, so I've ruled that out.

I guess worms are the next consideration. There is only one product licensed for use on poultry in the UK and that is Flubenvet and it is difficult to administer to just one chicken, especially when they are not eating. Can anyone tell me what to look out for in their faeces regarding worms... images would be good. I'm pleased to report she did quite a normal poo, consistency wise, this afternoon, after I had given her some fluids, but she is still obviously poorly. Not too poorly to get up and roost 6 ft above the ground with the other girls though.
I'm loath to isolate her in case she gets depressed. At the moment she is still coming out and free ranging through the day but keeps more to herself than with the other hens as she was doing and sometimes just stands in a corner or quiet place.

She is my first poorly hen and one of my favourites, so I'm really anxious to do what I can for her.

Thanks

Barbara
 

rebrascora

Free Ranging
5 Years
Feb 14, 2014
7,127
8,648
556
Consett Co.Durham. UK
Well she is no worse today and perhaps a little better. She had some wheat this morning and she takes some of my oat and nettle soup each time I offer it to her and she did a little poop this morning again which I dissected and found quite a lot of fibrous material like grass. I feed my horses on fresh grass cuttings (I know.... all the vets recommend not to, but I have been doing it for 16 years with no problem and it is such a shame to waste all that good grass on the lawns when the horses have none and I'm buying haylage). Anyway, I'm wondering if she has been in with the horses and eaten some of the grass cuttings and got an impaction. The important thing is that she is eating and drinking and pooing now, so hopefully, if that was the problem, it has passed.

I would be happier if she was integrating more with the others but she's following me around the yard, so it's good that she has forgiven me for that undignified lice exam yesterday and it appears she seems to realise I'm trying to help her.

Anyway, I would be happy for more input if anyone has any tips or ideas.

Many thanks

Barbara
 

jonalisa

Codswallop!
6 Years
May 28, 2013
674
272
211
NH
My Coop
My Coop
If you know how to email or text message a photo from your phone, PM me and I will send my number and upload the photo for you.
 

chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,905
655
296
Australia
Quote: Sorry for the late reply!

Sunburn, I don't know about, I'm in Australia and we've been though some scorchers so hot nothing moves and you could fry an egg on the green leaves in the shade... Yet our poultry have never had a sunburn.

However I noticed you said you're in the UK(?) One thing I have noticed is some severe discrepancies between disease and parasite (etc) problems and treatments between countries. Some things from Australia simply don't apply to America but we're a lot closer in compatibility than the UK; some UK problems are simply not paralleled by what we are experienced with. So for all I know, your birds do have sunburn....

There's a site you should check out for people in your area who may be more relevant with their answers:

Quote: But this site, BYC, also has people from your area which can also help. It would help if you edited your profile to state that you are from the UK, and search this forum for people from that area too.

You will often be asked on this forum where you are located and it's very relevant to many problems; people often cannot give you a relevant answer without that information. The differences are that great. There are some diseases unique to each country, and some variations of diseases and parasites each country has do not pertain to all other countries. And treatment methods vary quite widely too.

Quote: Regardless of all the helpful videos you can see and tips you can get, nothing helps as much as hands-on experience.

Just practice restraining them, find out what works for you. If you're calm and firm in what you are working to achieve they will for the most part respect and trust your interactions with them. Intent counts for a lot. They have to learn to put up with being handled too, it's often necessary for their own good. Once they learn you don't mean them harm, they will calm down; some birds will never accept being handled but it's not fear based, it's simply anti-human sentiment. They don't like people, and that's all there is to it, with those individuals.

I found the best methods of restraining them involve catching them as quickly as possible and stopping them fluttering and struggling as soon as possible, because they get stuck in a repetitive pattern if every time they are chased or caught, they are allowed to run and flail around for long periods. If you stop them early they learn to settle early. The longer it goes the more hysterical they can get, and in their minds it becomes bullying or hunting. It's very important that however the interactions start though, they always end calmly and positively, which has more to do with how you release them than with what you did to them. For that purpose I often keep treats on me so they can learn to associate being wrangled with something good. ;)

Since you say your hen has apparently forgiven you, I'd say you're already doing just fine and the rest is all just practice and refining technique.

I use one hand to hold their legs if they're not calm, or support their bodies if they are, and with the other hand hold their wings to their bodies in the normal folded position. To check inside their mouths or forcefeed them something I put them on my lap, sitting them on one leg, facing the same direction as I am, and use the arm on that side to tuck them against my side, and use that same arm that's holding them there to cradle their head from behind and then use that thumb and index finger to open their mouth at the corners of the beak, on the sides, and than I use my free arm to administer whatever I am administering. Practice makes perfect.

You can tell jaundice also by looking at their faces unless they're already yellow skinned, or if they're dark skinned.
Quote: Not necessarily unlikely, unfortunately, as beyond genetic bias there are dietary causes. Generally all birds in a flock are on the same diet, so often if one bird in a flock develops organ failure at least some others will too; digestive problems account for the vast majority of poultry deaths and of all of these, almost all of them are disorders involving the liver; it's more common than not in terms of cause of death.

Any birds fed processed feeds, but especially high production breeds, are fairly common cardiovascular disease cases, but renal disease is also fairly common. When we force them to take, as their staple food, only cooked/overprocessed and often synthetic fats, oils, and proteins, such as pellets are comprised of, we are feeding them the exact diet known to cause heart disease in all animals fed on it. Some just cope better than others. If they're free ranging chances are they'll be doing much better than average.

All that said, I wouldn't think offhand it's organ failure but that said, I wouldn't rule it out, either. Helpful, I know. :/ Sorry. Photos really do help but they can be quite the ordeal for non-techy or experienced people to get online.
Quote: If you want information on anything about poultry, the easiest way to find it may be to google it, and chances are the links provided will bring you straight to any relevant threads on this site. :) There are search options within this site, but I find them unreliable and it's often better to search outside of the site.

Don't worry about finding worms in their poop; an absence of worms in the poop doesn't mean they don't have worms, just that the worms are either not breeding right now, or the eggs are too small to be seen easily. If you haven't been worming them then worms would be a good bet. Liver fluke can cause symptoms like liver failure. With some of the worm species you will only see adult worms in their poop after something has killed the adult worms. Also, many wormers don't kill the whole spectrum and those that used to, after years of overly heavy usage, no longer kill any of them. There are some areas where you may as well pour the wormer down the drain for all the good it's going to do you now.

To be very sure about worm absence or presence you'd need a fecal egg count. Some vets do that, for a fee. I personally find it better to worm them regularly, but using natural alternatives instead of chemicals. Not many people know that carrots are a great wormer. They're too high in fiber and vitamin A for parasites to stomach. ;) For poultry you'd need to grate them though. But they also work on kids, dogs, and so forth.

I use natural wormers, just added to their food, like black pepper, cayenne pepper, tabasco sauce (I usually give that one on bread), herbs and the Allium family like raw onion, garlic, etc, to worm mine, and have never had worm problems.

That said you wouldn't want to let a very advanced worm problem reach the near death stage and then try the gentler natural alternatives, and I wouldn't want to advise anyone who is a newbie to herbs on what harsher natural alternatives they could try, as some can be fatal if overdosed, i.e. the wormwood plant. If you are familiar with herbs or feel confident you can find the relevant information on dosing with them, by all means look into what you feel comfortable using. It's not really hard but some are quite worried about it.

Raw garlic is high in natural sulfur compounds and if you feed it regularly it builds up in their systems and acts as a disease and parasite repellant. It's also a very powerful natural multi-spectrum antibiotic which is more powerful than the most powerful artificial/man-made antibiotics against food poisoning and viruses etc, as tests in patients in hospitals have proven. It's antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, antimicrobial, and the list goes on. But for parasite control it's better given as a staple, not a random once-off additive.
Quote: Impaction is a definite possibility. Especially with grass cuttings it could produce the symptoms you described.

No doubt you know the reason why grass cuttings are a 'no-no'; I think the same reason applies to poultry. Some animals perhaps have some ability to process the cuttings' gaseous byproducts better than others, and thereby don't die from it. Some do, some don't, it sure is random.

Best wishes.
 

rebrascora

Free Ranging
5 Years
Feb 14, 2014
7,127
8,648
556
Consett Co.Durham. UK
@ jonalisa

Thanks for your reply and very kind offer. I'm guessing that your location NH stands for New Hampshire in the USA and my phone isn't enabled for international calls or email.... I know! It's a bit stone age, but then so am I.


@ chooks4life

Many thanks for taking so much trouble in your reply. I really do appreciate it. Sadly, she is looking worse and although I have seen her taking water this morning, she is not interested in my nettle soup today. Her comb is darker in colour and more dried out and reminds me of the colour peoples' lips go when they have a heart attack. She is just sitting hunched up in the yard and it's a cool breezy day, but it was her choice to come out of the hen house/stable. I haven't checked inside her mouth yet, (I don't know if I want to put her through further indignity when she is so poorly and not used to being handled) but my gut feeling is that she isn't jaundiced. She just feels so lightweight. The only other thing I could think of to do was check for being egg bound, because I got two massive brown eggs at the weekend that have a 1 in 3 chance of being from her and since then she has looked ill. Anyway, I can't feel anything as regards any more eggs in there.

I will check out the accidental smallholder site you mention for more local guidance thanks. I am aware that it is an international and predominantly American forum and my profile should show my location as Consett Co. Durham, UK. That's what I can see on the left hand side of my posts anyway, so hopefully everyone else can too.

Yes, I have been using google mostly the past few days and often get referred back to this site as you say. I'm gathering lots of information as I go, so it's all beneficial, but so far I'm not having success with this particular problem. I'm bracing myself for the worst and mentally preparing myself to do a post mortem if it should happen, so hopefully I will know for next time. I'm reasonably confident I can identify a worm burden and a serious liver problem should be obvious I guess. Not sure I could find a blocked coronary in a chicken although I've seen it done in a human. I assume there aren't any laws preventing you dissecting a dead chicken? I know that's a crazy idea when you can kill them and eat them, but sometimes "The Law" is an ***!

I'm interested in your comments about layers pellets. I must confess I had reservations about using them, but initially, when I first got the girls, they were confined to the stable and I thought it was perhaps better that they had a "balanced" diet rather than just wheat. Now that they are out to free range during the day, I still have plenty of pellets left so I continued to feed it. This hen was previously only fed on wheat, stale bread, scraps and whatever she could forage. Her previous owner had the same misgivings about layers pellets as I did, but he had followed his instinct, whereas I caved in. I've had her since February this year and she hasn't been wormed since then.
I just used mixed corn last time around (approx 10 years ago), and had no health problems, then other than those fatal ones caused by the fox, but then perhaps they didn't live long enough to develop any!

Once again, many thanks to you both for taking the trouble to reply.

Barbara
 

chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,905
655
296
Australia
I don't think it's your fault, if that helps.

If she was raised on layer pellets etc she'd be nearing the end of her run so to speak, but if she was raised without any protein bar what she could find, that would actually be a likelier cause of problems because protein starvation directly attacks the heart muscle as the body digests it to feed the brain and keep the body operational. One of the things they ask you in hospital when trying to determine threats is whether you have ever starved, and if the answer is yes, then your heart is considered damaged. The same rule applies to animals.

You say the previous owner was feeding wheat, i.e. bread, and scraps and whatever she could forage... That's a common diet that kills chickens. Almost nobody has land that's abundant enough to provide enough forage for them; people give them scraps as the main staple, and when something kills them later on they don't realize the part the diet played, so they think it was something else instead and they continue to give many people the advice to give their chooks the same diet they did.

The whole "scraps and freerange is sufficient" thing is actually a rather epidemic misapprehension killing countless chickens everywhere which would really benefit from an awareness campaign or something. I meet too many people with dying birds who won't accept that they need a balanced diet, they're not somehow exempt from the biological laws governing what we feed to our other livestock, pets, and ourselves. Even those who know plants need balanced nutrients are often amazingly ignorant about chickens' needs. In some cases it is decidedly willfully ignorant, unfortunately.

Most of the diseases of malnutrition are simply not recognized as being caused by an imbalanced diet; most people don't know that obesity is also one very common symptom of malnutrition, and it's also a common physical state of a worm-overburdened animal or person. For obvious reasons, it's a rather abstract concept to the layperson, the effect nutritional imbalance has on the body ---- and it can take months, years, even decades to kill. It's difficult to diagnose but should always be considered a likely possibility whenever an animal on that diet dies of a mysterious disease.

Your feeding corn as the staple to the other lot would have worked much better than wheat only, as corn is one of the foods able to sustain life for a long time in the absence of other foods, but eventually, unless your land was lush enough, they would have begun to suffer somewhat for the imbalance; it may have only been mild, like iodine and salt needs not being met, depends on your land. Corn is very nutritious, or at least used to be, I can't speak for the modern strains like super supersweet corn and all that rubbish. Many modern plants simply don't contain what their ancestral strains used to, nutrient wise.

I traveled my flock when I moved house several times over a short period of time, and I had to agist them out on some other properties; one of these was a property whose owner, a nice old lady, didn't believe in pellets. I didn't either, never used them before traveling them, but while on the move couldn't make up their usual premixed feeds myself, so bought pellets for the first time in their lives to make sure they still got a balanced ration.

Anyway, long story short, she stopped feeding them pellets and mixed grain, and never told me she wasn't feeding them any form of protein, just wheat and water, for almost half a year.

By the time I found out, they were almost dead from starvation. They'd been eating their own eggs to survive but were almost beyond laying by that point. She just kept them in a cage, with just wheat and water. Her intentions were good but she didn't know birds need protein, which is bizarre given she had horses, cattle etc, surely an 'animal person' should know the basics? Unfortunately not.

That assumption cost me my best hen. That, and the assumption she was feeding them what I was paying for, which was actually a fair assumption because that was the agreement. I learned the hardest way that people will always do to your animals what they believe or feel is right, not whatever they say they will, not what you ask or what they agree to do, not what you pay them to do. Lost my dog into that sort of bargain too... And other animals... I've had a rough time recently in terms having my animals suffer from me trusting others.

Eh, anyway, your hen may be suffering from a lifetime of protein starvation, or insufficiency, may be a better term for it. They can keep laying when not receiving enough to sustain themselves which is a major point the "scraps and forage" proponents usually rely upon as proof their diet is enough --- the fact that they're laying at all. My hens, starving to death on that diet, were still laying by the time I picked them up; they were skeletal and desperately hungry, but still laying. We've bred hens to keep laying at the expense of their own health, so instead of supplying their brain, heart, muscles etc with enough protein, if they are only taking in enough to make eggs, that's where it goes. Wrong priorities, unless you're viewing them from an economical standpoint.

Normally, they can't find all they need when free ranging, it does help a lot especially because when given a choice the bulk of their diet is greenery, with the rest being protein, but not many farms are that lush in insect life, and they're already supporting wild species that are better at catching insects than the poultry will ever be. Poultry also can't eat many insects wild birds can, there's many insects with defense systems, toxins etc which protect them from chooks, and plenty of people see the abundance of insects and think the chooks must be getting enough. Really, if you see them, it's because the chooks aren't eating them, generally.

Her heart may be failing from old damages even though she now has protein. You could try feeding her some raw cold pressed olive oil, it may help, but from your description she does sound far gone. Cold pressed olive oil relaxes arteries etc and the vitamin E helps with many things including detoxing. Lack of good raw oils is one of the main reasons the birds on pellet-only diets have heart problems as well as prolapse etc. Cooked oils should never be the staple oils.

I don't think it's an egg issue, you would know if she had a stuck egg or infection, I'd vouch. But you're giving nettle, which, even when cooked, is packed with nutrients; asides from hemp it is one of the most nutritious land plants known to man. I don't think outright starvation, at least not while she was in your care, is the cause. Raising them right is one of the most important things you can do for them though... You cannot put in later what never went in there in the first place.

It's good you're prepared to do a post mortem if necessary, to find out the cause and stop this from happening again. It's hard when you cared about the animal but often necessary to prevent future suffering. I don't know of any laws against it. You wouldn't need to look for a blocked coronary; if it's become blocked enough to cause a heart attack, she will show dead or damaged tissues, or withered muscle, in the heart itself. If she does not make it, I would look at her kidneys too, and would inspect the intestines and stomach. She may have ingested a non-edible, or have genetic leukosis, or something like that.


Best wishes.
 

rebrascora

Free Ranging
5 Years
Feb 14, 2014
7,127
8,648
556
Consett Co.Durham. UK
Many thanks yet again for your extensive input and kind words. She has actually picked up a bit tonight. She had gone up to roost early along with a couple of others. I normally give them a ration of wheat before they roost, so I went in and scattered some and she decided to come down and have some with the other girls and took a decent amount before she kind of "ran out of steam" and hunched up. For some reason the cockerel, who is lovely natured generally, has mated with her twice in two days which seems a bit mean when she is unwell. He has plenty of other girls, so I'm not sure why he is giving her so much attention, unless he find a purple comb attractive! She doesn't seem overly bothered by his attention, but I chase him off when I see him showing an interest.

I will get some cold pressed olive oil tonight and give that a go tomorrow and maybe put the chopped nettles in it instead of the runny porridge concoction. I know this is unlikely to end well, but I do at least have a little more hope tonight than I did at lunchtime.

Many, many thanks for your support in this.

Barbara
 
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